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Rights group seeks annulment of National Assembly special privileges Act-

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Sunday, July 05, 2020 A landmark campaign seeking to remove self-made privileges of the National Assembly was launched on Friday. Nigeria’s leading anti-corruption group has hired a prominent human rights lawyer, Mr Kunle Adegoke to lead the legal fireworks.

The foremost anti-graft group, Human and Environmental Development Agenda (HEDA Resource Centre) is asking the Federal High Court to declare null and void the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act of 2017 which confers special privileges on Nigerian lawmakers.

The Act gave away perks and privileges to lawmakers almost making them lords unto themselves.

Since 2017 when the Act was passed, HEDA said many Nigerians have found it difficult to hold accountable their elected representatives.

While the Act empowers lawmakers to probe Nigerians, it at the same time disempowers the electorate from prying into the activities of the lawmakers. “It’s like building a fortress for themselves while leaving those who elected them helpless and down in the cold”, HEDA Chairman, Mr. Olanrewaju Suraju, who is leading the campaign said.

He said his organisation had been approached by thousands of Nigerians who appear frustrated by the shield and buckler built around the legislators by the Legislative Houses Act (Powers and Privileges) of 2017 adding that the Act violates the international principles of equality before the law.

In an originating summons filed by Human and Environmental Development Agenda, (HEDA Resource Centre), the rights group wants the Court to nullify the Act passed into law two years ago amidst public outcry.

The Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act gave the National Assembly and States Houses of Assembly certain powers considered the traditional preserve of the law courts. Such powers include but are not limited to restraining criminal and civil proceedings from being instituted against any member of the Houses and right of restriction on suspended members. Other provisions of the Act restricting access of an average Nigerian to justice by demanding 90-day pre-action notice to be served on the Houses before an action is commenced. This, HEDA considers distasteful as it runs contrary to the Public Officers Protection Act and Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) which guarantees right of access to court.

HEDA said the Act places the lawmakers above the Nigerian constitution as if the laws of the land were not meant for them.

In the originating summons supported by a six-paragraph affidavit deposed to by Sina Odugbemi, a Programme Manager at HEDA, the group seeks the leave of the Court to determine whether the Act is a valid legislative enactment in view of Section 4 and Item 47 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

HEDA also wants the Court to determine whether the provision of Section 21 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 is not in conflict with Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act, Cap. P41, LFN 2004 and thereby constituting an infringement of Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) as to render it a nullity.

HEDA posits that the provision of Section 23(a) of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 is inconsistent with Section 6(6)(b) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) as to render it a nullity.

The rights group seeks a Declaration that the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 is an invalid legislation in view of Section 4 and Item 47 of the Exclusive Legislative List of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

It also sought a declaration that Section 21 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 is null, void and of no effect same being in conflict with Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act, Cap. P41, LFN 2004 and thereby constituting an infringement of Sections 6(6)(b) and 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

HEDA wants an Order nullifying the provision of Section 21 of the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 same being in conflict with Section 2 of the Public Officers Protection Act, Cap. P41, LFN 2004 and thereby constituting an infringement of Section 6(6)(b) and 36(1) of the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered).

HEDA said while the Constitution of the Federal Republic of Nigeria, 1999 (as altered) has delimited the powers of the National Assembly and the State Houses of Assembly, the National Assembly has exceeded its legislative powers in enacting the Legislative Houses (Powers and Privileges) Act, 2017 by even conferring the same privileges on Houses of Assembly of States and has taken away the constitutional right of Nigerians to access any Court for that matter to seek redress to their grievances.

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